Smucker Deploys Unique Hybrid Work Schedule
Workspan Daily
September 01, 2023

In a profile by the Wall Street Journal, J.M. Smucker detailed its approach to hybrid work that has been highly successful nearly two years in.  

The Orrville, Ohio-based company known for its jarred jams and jellies that also owns Jif peanut butter, Folgers coffee and Pup-Peroni dog treats, expects its roughly 1,300 corporate employees to be onsite as little as six days a month, or about 25% of the time, depending on their roles.  

Employees are told to hit that threshold by coming in during 22 “core” weeks a year. Many employees can live anywhere in the U.S., so long as they pay their own way to get to Orrville for core weeks. This has led to a growing group of super-commuters who reside elsewhere but work in Orrville, the Journal reports.  

This fall, many companies are again issuing stern memos to workers or handing down new in-person edicts to repopulate spaces. Smucker executives told the Journal there is something remarkable about its return-to-office approach: Employees are mostly following it, with limited grumbling. Core weeks also appear to be eking more work out of employees in some circumstances. 

“People generally show up” for core weeks, said Mark Smucker, the company’s chief executive and a fifth-generation member of the founding family. He was sitting in a conference room during a recent core week. A few other nearby rooms were also occupied. “They’ve adapted,” he said. 

Smucker’s executives said they considered requiring employees back in the office three days a week, but ruled it out, telling the Journal that it was too “prescriptive.”  

The core-week effort began in January 2022, with some employees initially ignoring it. However, the offices began filling by May and June of last year, the Journal reports. Smucker’s headquarters is now about 70% to 80% full, which is above the national average.  

Executives see the policy as an asset in hiring, allowing them to recruit employees who may be uninterested in a role in northeastern Ohio. On a job description for an assistant brand manager at Smucker posted this summer, for example, the position notes that the candidate will be expected “to be on-campus minimally.”  

“We’re not limited by geography. We’re limited by the fact that we’re going to want you here. You need to have a presence,” said Nicholas, who lives nearby and has worked at the company for more than 30 years. “It’s unleashed, I think, the ability to get the best talent.” 

Amazon CEO Issues Warning to Employees Skirting In-Office Requirement  

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told employees to get on board with the company’s return-to-office plan or to consider employment elsewhere, CNN reports.  

At a company event, Jassy told employees that they are entitled to disagree with the company’s decision to bring workers back into the office full time, but they are not entitled to disregard the policy.  

Some people posting to message boards on site likes Reddit and Blind in recent weeks discuss legal rights for employees who say they were hired 12 months earlier as a virtual employee and whether they can be forced to work in an office. 

Earlier, Business Insider reported that a recording of the session depicted Jassy telling recalcitrant employees: “It’s probably not going to work out for you.” Insider also reported that employees at the internal meeting asked Jassy to produce the internal data justifying the policy. 

According to the remarks Amazon shared with CNN, Jassy responded by saying that the return-to-office policy was more the result of a judgment call based on an assessment of various factors including business results. He added that Amazon had little data to support a policy of indefinite remote work, and that Amazon had to make judgment calls based on limited data in the past. 

Earlier this month, Amazon sent some employees an email indicating that the company knew they were not badging into the office as often as required. 

Amazon’s signal to workers that it is tracking their attendance comes after hundreds of its corporate employees staged a walkout in May to protest the office policy. At the time, organizers of the walkout said more than 1,000 employees had participated in the event; Amazon disputed that figure, claiming that only 300 were involved.  

Organizers of the walkout have called the company’s approach a “rigid, one-size-fits-all” mandate. 

T-Mobile U.S. to Lay Off 5,000 Employees  

T-Mobile plans to lay off about 5,000 employees, or 7% of its workforce, as the cell carrier looks to reduce costs amid rising competition in the wireless industry, the Wall Street Journal reports.  

“Right now, our company is at a pivotal crossroads,” said CEO Mike Sievert. “What it takes to attract and retain customers is materially more expensive than it was just a few quarters ago.” 

T-Mobile and rival carriers AT&T and Verizon Communications have been fending off rising competition from cable companies, which are offering lower-priced wireless plans as part of a bundle with internet and cable service. An increase in subscriber counts across the industry has also slowed in recent quarters after a pandemic-fueled growth spurt over the past couple of years. 

The growth in T-Mobile’s wireless business has outpaced that of AT&T and Verizon in recent years. The company has also been rapidly adding customers of its 5G-powered wireless home-internet offering. Sievert said those successes aren’t enough. 

“It is clear that doing everything we are doing and just doing it faster is not enough to deliver on these changing customer expectations going forward,” he said in the memo. 

T-Mobile’s layoffs will come over the next five weeks and mostly affect the company’s corporate and back-office employees, Sievert said. Retail and customer-service employees won’t be impacted. The company had 71,000 full- and part-time employees as of Dec. 31. 

Most affected positions are duplicative roles or aligned with company processes that are changing, the CEO said. T-Mobile, he said, is also reducing its reliance on contractors. 

American Airlines Flight Attendants Vote to Authorize Strike  

Flight attendants at American Airlines voted overwhelmingly to authorize union leaders to call for a strike, a move designed to put pressure on the carrier during negotiations over pay raises, the Associated Press reports.  

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said Wednesday that more than 99% of members who voted recently favored giving the union power to call a strike. The union backed up the vote with picketing at several airports. 

Union President Julie Hedrick said the vote tells company management that flight attendants, who have not received raises since 2019, are “fired up.” American executives, she said, “ignore this strike vote at their peril.” 

The vote does not mean that a strike is imminent or even likely. Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to conduct legal strikes — they need a decision from federal mediators that further negotiations would be pointless, which rarely happens. The president and Congress can also get involved to delay or block a strike. 

Earlier this month, American’s pilots ratified a contract that will raise average pay more than 40% over four years. Flight attendants are not expected to reap that kind of increase, as they have less leverage than pilots, who are in short supply. 

Other airline unions are also pushing for new contracts. Pilots at Southwest Airlines and flight attendants at United Airlines also picketed at airports Thursday. 

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